This morning, we had trouble with the phone line we use to broadcast live to 1560 A.M. On a hunch, I tried calling the main line as well and it also isn’t working. We’ll call this outage in tomorrow morning. I don’t know how long it will take to get the phones back up and running but you can call Jenny and I on our mobile phones if you need anything in the meantime.
Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was shot and killed while out for a run in Georgia on February 23, 2020. It took 74 days, a damning video, and a national outcry for the two white men chased him down in a truck to be arrested. This is still further evidence that racism, both individual and systemic, is alive well in the United States of America. It is not enough to change hearts and minds; the whole systematic edifice of racial prejudice must be dismantled. Racism is sinful. Racism is evil. And so God calls the church to oppose it.
I’m overwhelmed, and I’m not sure how to respond, and so I’m going to pray. I would ask and encourage you to pray also. Pray for Ahmaud’s family, pray for his friends, pray for the heart and soul of this country, that we might repent, individually and collectively, of our racism and then go forth to sin no more.
The New York Times timeline of the case: nyti.ms/3bhsn5B
Our Bible Study on the Gospel of Luke begins this coming Wednesday (May 13, 2020). If all goes well, we’ll cover Luke 1:1-38. If all doesn’t go well, we’ll still manage to greet everyone and get everyone acclimated to Zoom.
Here’s your formal invitation to our Zoom Bible Study on the Gospel of Luke, please note that if you can call in from your phone if you want (long distance charges may apply):
Topic: Gospel of Luke Bible Study
Time: May 13, 2020 06:15 PM Central Time
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 918 7453 9985
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Meeting ID: 918 7453 9985
Please feel free to call, text, or email me if you have any questions.
Is Jesus the only way to Salvation? What about people of other faiths and those of no faith at all? Those are questions I plan to talk about in my sermon this coming Sunday (May 10, 2020). Find out how to watch or listen here: abilenefirstumc.org/live/.
We’re getting a lot of good feedback about what people would like to see (as far as production values) from our livestream next week when we get back into the sanctuary to broadcast and livestream (this will not be an in-person gathering—the church doors will be kept locked). Everything you would like to see, I would like to see, but the hard truth I need to tell you is that what we want cannot be done with what we have. Our video equipment consists of an iPad. Period. Full stop. $400 to 1,200 would go along way, donations of any amount (beyond your regular tithes and offerings) are welcome.
I want to start a Bible Study on the Gospel of Luke. And I plan to begin on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, at 6:15 p.m. That’s right I’m going to start a 26 week Bible Study during a global pandemic. It almost goes without saying that we’ll need to be flexible. We’re going to start on Zoom, but I sincerely hope that we will be able to move to face to face meetings as time goes on. Eventually, the time will change, the day may change, and I realize that not only will we probably have to take some weeks off as a group, but also that you individually may be able to make it some weeks but not others.
All you need for this study is a Bible, and if you don’t have one, it would be my joy to provide one. As the leader, I’m going to use the N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guide. I’m not asking everyone to get their own copy, but if you want, you can get a copy from Amazon, Cokesbury, or your favorite bookseller. You can also contact me if you want me to order a copy for you.
I don’t know if we’ll reach our destination or not, but I hope you’ll begin this journey with me. Let me know if you’re interested with a call, text, or email.
I’ve been getting a lot of undeserved credit for the May Day baskets that have been delivered today. All Jenny and I did was find the scripture and print the inserts. The rest was done by the Koinonia (Koi-nuh-nia) Sunday School Class (the class that meets in the library) who took them to everyone in the church directory who was older than they were. If you didn’t get one you either 1. weren’t in the church directory; 2. are “young” according to First United Methodist Church standards; or 3. your bag was mistakenly delivered to whoever lives at what was thought to be your house.
Happy May Day!
Just in case you’re like me and you need to hear this:
It’s Friday, and you’ve done enough. I don’t know how much you managed to do, but whatever you did, you’ve done enough. You probably haven’t been productive by your previous standards, but by the standards of surviving a global pandemic, you’ve done enough. Your worth doesn’t come from what you do, but from the fact that God loves you. You are God’s beloved. And you are loved by God not because of what you have accomplished, but because you are made in God’s image. You are loved by God. That’s enough. You are enough. You’ve done enough. Take it easy on yourself. Follow God’s example and show yourself some grace. Follow God’s lead and show yourself some love.
In a recent letter, Bishop Saenz made the following important point:
“To gather in person or not for worship at this time is not a matter of faith vs. faithlessness, or about some conspiracy to suppress Christianity; this is about honoring and doing our part individually and collectively to protect God’s sacred gift of life, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities and our world.”
These sentiments have been on my mind as I try to look forward and plan for our eventual regathering as a church. I do not foresee that regathering will take place anytime soon. In the event the Kansas-wide restrictions are lifted, the Dickinson County restrictions will again be in effect, so we will not have the all-clear to gather for worship. Besides, the Great Plains Conference is asking churches with an average attendance of more than 50 people not to gather for in-person worship at present even if local authorities permit it. It’s also worth noting that the guidelines the conference has issued for in-person worship in the sanctuary preclude any immediate resumption of a “normal” worship service. You can read the guidelines here.
It seems to me that the best worship experience available for quite some time will be at home. At present, keeping our distance is the best way to show our love for one another.
Looking ahead to worship over the next couple of months, I’m not sure how feasible it will be to safely celebrate Holy Communion when we again gather together in the sanctuary. I need some feedback about how you are experiencing our online celebrations of Holy Communion. Did you participate? Was it meaningful? Are you interested in continuing to celebrate the sacrament that way? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s quote is almost enough to get me to crack open Crime and Punishment, almost.
“At the last Judgment Christ will say to us, “Come, you also! Come, drunkards! Come, weaklings! Come, children of shame!” And he will say to us: “Vile beings, you who are in the image of the beast and bear his mark, but come all the same, you as well.” And the wise and prudent will say, “Lord, why do you welcome them?” And he will say: “If I welcome them, you wise men, if I welcome them, you prudent men, it is because not one of them has ever been judged worthy.” And he will stretch out his arms, and we will fall at his feet, and we will cry out sobbing, and then we will understand all, we will understand the Gospel of grace!” 
The risen Christ runs towards us with outstretched arms, we need only subject ourselves to being embraced.
 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: Random House, 1950), 322 as cited in The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.
Rev. Adam Hamilton noted that this was recorded prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The vocalists and musicians are all a part of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection Worship Collective. Such a wonderful way to be reminded of an essential truth.